How to cope with the loss of routine after coming back to work


In the past year, most of us have settled into a routine that revolved around our homes: the drive to work was replaced by the bedroom-living room “commute”, water cooler gossip was replaced by playtime with kids or pets, and face-to-face meetings were replaced with Zoom conferences. Most of us learned that we could be productive from home and improve our work-life balance.

Even if you were excited about seeing your colleagues, coming back to the office after spending such a long time away from it can be emotionally challenging. Firstly, because being in an office and having contact with other people can feel a bit scary, health-wise. And secondly, because coming back to work is a disruption in our routines.

Why does the loss of routine feel so uncomfortable?

Most people love having a daily routine of some sort because it offers a sense of structure, predictability and control, which can be good in times of stress and uncertainty. When there’s a disruption in that routine, we can feel anxious and thrown off track. The longer the routine lasted, the harder it is to adjust.

But here’s the good news: as difficult as it might seem to get back to pre-pandemic habits, you can slowly re-adjust to life at the office. Here are some tips for a smoother transition:

Acknowledge the benefits of coming back to work

If you loved working from home, you may be tempted to only see the negatives of coming back to work, like commutes, work meetings that could have been emails, and noisy colleagues. Office life isn’t perfect, but neither is working from home. To make the transition easier, try to look at the positives of going back to work, like having social interactions, having clear boundaries between work and personal life, and spending more time outside.

Allow yourself a transition period.

Although you’ve worked in the same company for over five years, going back to the office after so long can feel a bit like your first day of work. And that’s perfectly normal. It’s a major change in your routine, so acknowledge your feelings and allow yourself time to process them. If this puts your mind at ease, ask your employer about safety precautions or if they can give you a transition period to figure out childcare. During the transition, prioritise self-care: make sure you get enough sleep, eat healthy, spend time outdoors, and connect with others.

Create a new routine

Going back to work doesn’t have to mean giving up the things you love. Although it might disrupt your routine, think about the fact that you used to do this before, and you just need some time to get back into the swing of things. The first few days will seem a bit bumpy, but in time, you will intuitively settle into a new routine. This routine doesn’t have to be identical to the one before the pandemic. In the past year, you may have discovered new hobbies, new ways of connecting with others, or the importance of self-care. Keep these values, and integrate them into your new routine to combine the best of both worlds.

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